Tour tales – London (Week 4)

JON CARDINELLI reflects on miscued muggings, the Japanese bow loop, and the clamour in Cardiff.

London. A never-ending bustle of bodies fighting its way from A to B. The unforgiving crowd fills every underground carriage to capacity. The recycled air within adds to the sense of claustrophobia.

An early morning journey on public transport is akin to a run down the Willem Alberts channel. One needs the temperament of a honey badger to survive. Chivalry, I discovered to my dismay, is for misguided fools who don’t care about getting to the office on time.

Earlier this week, I got stuck in a human traffic jam on an underground stair case. An elderly lady with a cane was slowly but surely making her way down the stairs.

It was too much for one suit to bear. ‘Can you let people past, please?’ the suit chided, as if it was the lady who was being selfish. Apparently he had a meeting to get to. Apparently he couldn’t wait a few seconds more for this lady to make her descent.

London, like any big city, has its problems with crime. Last Sunday, one of my colleagues was targeted upon his arrival at Kings Cross Station. As he attempted to carry a precarious load of camera equipment up a flight of stairs, a group of thieves snatched a couple of bags off his back.

Two were caught by the cops, while the other less fortunate soul was grabbed by Steve Haag himself. Those who know the hulking Durban-based photographer can probably guess what happen next. Things didn’t end well for the thief.

Nevertheless, most of us took a lesson from the incident and endeavoured to keep a close eye on our belongings. As it would happen, I had a near escape myself while filing a story from a coffee shop next to Embankment Station.

The skelm approached from behind and snatched my phone off the table. I caught him before he made it through the door, only to discover it was someone I knew.

Springbok media manager De Jongh Borchardt had seen me working in the coffee shop, and had decided to play a practical joke. A couple of chairs fell to the ground with a crash as I made a beeline for the would-be criminal. That sound could not compare to Borchardt’s roaring laughter as he turned around to reveal his identity. Funny guy.

I had to chuckle at another one of my colleagues this week, who's become a target for Japanese journalists looking for a foreign take on the Brave Blossoms. Craig Ray gave a couple of interviews in the wake of Japan’s 34-32 win at Brighton Community Stadium. He was accosted again when we attended the match between South Africa and the USA at the Olympic Stadium on Wednesday.

The interview was for a Japanese TV station, and was conducted via interpreter. Fair enough. Pretty straightforward. Give the Brave Blossoms their due. Ray obliged and then some.

However, there was an awkward moment when the interview concluded. The Japanese journalist bowed to Ray. Ray, assuming this was the way things were done in Japanese culture, bowed back.

The translator then bowed to Ray. Ray bowed to the translator. It should have ended there, but it didn’t.

The journalist bowed again. Ray bowed again. The bemused translator bowed again. And so it went for about 30 seconds more until all three people backed slightly away from one another, and went their separate ways.

The last part of this tour diary was written on a slow coach from Cardiff to London. I’ve enjoyed watching the World Cup drama unfold at Twickenham. I’ve gained a new perspective from visiting the football grounds in Brighton, Birmingham and Newcastle. And yet it would be remiss of me to come all the way to the United Kingdom and not attend a match at the majestic Millennium Stadium.

The three-and-a-half-hour bus journey was well worth it. Irish fans invaded the Cardiff city centre in the hours before kick-off. The noise made by the Emerald Green masses at the Millennium Stadium on Sunday rivalled what I heard at the self-same venue in the wake of Wales’ 12-6 win against South Africa last November. I’d dare say the Irish were louder.

The fans put on a great show in the aftermath. It wasn’t long before a Guinness was pushed into my hand. The French supporters, to their credit, were quick to join the festivities on St Mary’s Street and surrounds. Nobody really loses on days like these, at least not in rugby town like Cardiff.

Post by

Jon Cardinelli